The Dallas Mavericks teased their fans a couple of times Wednesday night, but the Oklahoma City Thunder withstood a couple of big Mavericks runs to claim a 116-103 victory.
The Thunder (40-16) swept the season series with the Mavs (30-28), avoided their first three-game losing streak since November and reaffirmed the gap that exists between the Western Conference’s third-place team and the Mavs, who are embroiled in a tight race to try to improve its place in the West. The Mavs actually dropped to seventh place in the loss.
That doesn’t bode well when one considers that the Mavs could end up playing the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. ... as we note here in "Rapid Fire,'' the "Team They Cannot Beat.''
“We had a little slippage and that seems to be the trend for us this season,” Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews said after the game. “We’re too good of a team to be doing that. This loss hurts. We have to get back and get one Friday (against Denver).”
Perhaps of more concern is the fact that Dallas is now 2-6 in its last eight games. ... and here come the Blazers and the Jazz and ...
“The West is always tight,'' Dirk said. "We lost a big one against Utah before the break. They’ve been playing incredible. Portland has been on an incredible run and I think they passed us with this loss tonight. This homestand is big and we’ve got to get some wins. We’ve got to get some traction.”
The Mavs fell behind 58-51 at halftime, but the Mavs cobbled together a 23-13 run to take the lead, 74-71, with 5:26 left in the third quarter on a Wesley Matthews 3-pointer. Matthews ended up with 15 points, all of which came on 3-pointers and two of which came during the run.
But the lead evaporated almost as quickly as the Mavs acquired it. The Mavs went ice cold, at one point going 3-of-18 from the floor (including an 0-for-11 start in the fourth quarter) as the Thunder blew up. After falling behind by three, the Thunder went on a scorching 28-10 run to take what appeared to be an insurmountable 102-81 lead with 7:25 left in the fourth quarter.
You could blame OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook if you want. Both had 24 points. But Dion Waiters (14 points, four 3-pointers) and Steven Adams (15 points) had as much to do with leaving the Mavs in the dust as both hit key baskets during the run. Waiters was especially lethal, scoring all of his points in the second half, including four 3-pointers.
But just like their previous meeting — where Dallas surged back from 17 points down late to nearly tie the game before the Thunder won by three — the Mavs made a run. Dallas scored 14 straight points, fueled in part by Dirk Nowitzki, who had four of his game-high 33 points during the run, to cut the Thunder’s lead to 105-97. But a well-placed timeout by Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan seemed to cool off the Mavs with 4:00 left.
Poised to make it a closer game, the Mavs came out of the timeout flat. Nowitzki missed a13-footer, followed by Matthews’ miss of a 3-pointer. After Durant canned a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 11, an errant Deron Williams pass led to a Dallas turnover and the Mavs never got any closer.
Said coach Rick Carlisle (part of the Mavs-OKC Quoteboard you can read here): “I don’t look at the standings that much, I’m looking at how we’re playing. I didn’t like the way we played in the first and the fourth quarters tonight – and those are pretty important quarters. We’ve got to pick it up. These games at home are precious commodities. Oklahoma City is a terrific team, but we can do better than what we did tonight.”
The Mavs wasted Nowitzki’s vintage outing, his first game of 30 or more points in more than a month. Forward Chandler Parsons, who had been enjoying a surge in production the past month, had just six points. It’s the second time he’s scored just six points against one of the West’s top three teams, as he managed only six points against San Antonio on Feb. 5.
New acquisition David Lee played with good energy during his 15 minutes off the bench, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds. So there were bright spots. But mostly there was ... slippage.